The Bucs defense came up huge during their championship run, so it’s no surprise that the unit is held in high regard as the 2021 season begins to unfold.
CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin is one person who thinks highly of the Bucs defense. He has the 11-man unit of Devin White, Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, etc. as the second-best unit heading into 2021. The defense ranks behind only the Washington Football Team, whom Tampa Bay hung 31 points on during the playoffs:
The one thing keeping me from anointing the Browns with the No. 1 spot is the prove-it factor. The Bucs have that in spades. They return all 22 starters from last season’s defense that ranked sixth in yards, eighth in points, and fifth in DVOA. They brought in Joe Tryon to spell Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett and K.J. Britt to develop behind Lavonte David and Devin White. They can provide a bunch of different looks with Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, Steve McLendon, and William Gholston on the defensive interior. They’ve still got Todd Bowles. The only issue here is age, with JPP, Suh, and David all in or near their mid-30s. But that shouldn’t be a major drawback, for the most part.
It’s really hard to not give the Bucs defense high marks right now. And it’s tough to even buy into Dubin’s last couple of sentences. Yes, JPP, Suh, and David are getting long in the tooth, but none are showing any signs of slowing down. JPP led the team in sacks and was a Pro Bowl selection despite playing with knee issues, Suh had his best season in five years, and David notched 100+ tackles for the fourth consecutive season while playing in all 16 games.
And it’s not just about the starters. Several key depth pieces are set to return, as well. Names like Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Steve McClendon, Ross Cockrell, Mike Edwards, and others will be back in 2021.
It’s good to see elite defensive play back in Tampa Bay.